The City of Greensboro recently settled a lawsuit filed in 2019 against Arco Realty for unpaid building code violation fines totaling over $680,000.
Arco is owned by Agapion family members.
The majority of the City Council agreed to settle for $200,000, and in an editorial on Sunday, Oct. 17, the News & Record opined that it wasn’t enough. The editorial was headlined, “The city talks tough…then it backs down.”
On Tuesday, Oct. 19, City Councilmember Justin Outling, who is running for mayor in 2022, sent out a campaign email that quoted the N&R headline and stated, “I certainly agree with this headline.”
And Outling quoted the editorial, “Now here we are, two years later, with a lame settlement and even lamer excuses…The city’s kid-gloves approach to Arco makes you wonder how much of that tough talk was real and how much was hot air.”
Outling, who is a partner in the Brooks Pierce law firm, stated, “I was against the settlement and voiced my opposition to Council. I believed the City should have gone to court to enforce the fines–not only to get the money that was owed to the City, but because it was the right thing to do.”
Greensboro City Attorney Chuck Watts, who was in charge of the lawsuit, doesn’t agree. Watts said, “The only people that would have benefitted from further litigation were the lawyers.”
Watts added, “It was a good settlement.”
The city did lose a box of receipts from Arco that would have allowed Arco to reduce the amount of the fines. When a company makes the repairs to fix the deficiencies for which it has been fined, it is allowed to use that cost to reduce the fine. Since the city could not produce the box of receipts from Arco, the amount the fines should have been reduced was in question.
Arco was also prepared to make the legal argument that the statute of limitations on some of the fines had expired. Since the fines reportedly went back eight to 10 years, that would have been a matter for the courts to decide.
But the larger issue seems to be that Arco had not been sued by the city for nonpayment of fines for eight to 10 years.
In 2019, at the direction of Mayor Nancy Vaughan, the policy of not taking companies that were racking up large sums in building code violation fines to court was changed and legal proceedings have begun, not only against Arco, but against other companies as well.
One attorney familiar with the case, who asked not to be identified, said, “There was no guarantee the city would have won in court. The city could have ended up with nothing.”